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Site of Marton Augustinian priory including mill, fishponds, and water meadows

A Scheduled Monument in Marton-cum-Moxby, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.1185 / 54°7'6"N

Longitude: -1.1077 / 1°6'27"W

OS Eastings: 458420.189631

OS Northings: 469548.313608

OS Grid: SE584695

Mapcode National: GBR NNPT.ZD

Mapcode Global: WHD95.YRP1

Entry Name: Site of Marton Augustinian priory including mill, fishponds, and water meadows

Scheduled Date: 17 February 1947

Last Amended: 25 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014796

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26939

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Marton-cum-Moxby

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Marton St Mary

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument is situated on a flat-topped spur of land projecting south into
the east side of the Foss valley and includes the site of the priory and
substantial earthwork remains of fishponds, a mill, water meadows and
associated water management works. These features were all part of a wider
monastic complex. The main priory buildings, comprising the church, cloister
and domestic and administrative accommodation lay on the south end of the
spur, in the area now occupied by the present farm. Little remains of these
structures above ground level but the modern farm buildings are partly built
on foundations of large stone blocks standing up to 2m high which are monastic
in origin.

The spur itself has been artificially steepened by cutting back the slopes
along the west, south and east sides and to the north the spur is crossed by a
broad moat-like ditch up to 10m wide and 4m deep. This was once water-filled,
being fed from a stream to the east and acted as a reservoir for the water
supply to the priory. Between this ditch and the present farm the spur top is
occupied by numerous low banks and shallow ditches and at least two phases of
ridge and furrow cultivation, one preceding the low banks. Some of the ditches
carried water from the main northern ditch into the conventual buildings and
other of the earthworks are interpreted as boundaries of garths known to have
existed in this area in the 16th century.

The valley of the Foss to the west and north contains substantial earthworks
forming an integrated water management system of tanks, reservoirs, channels
and leats for mills, fishponds and water meadows. The course of the River Foss
has been substantially altered and to the west of the priory was diverted some
100m to the west to allow the valley floor to be used for fish farming.

To the north the Foss has been altered to form two parallel water courses
connected by a cross channel. The western stream is the rechanneled Foss and
the eastern a leat extending south east to feed a reservoir for the abbey mill
immediately to the south. The canal extended for 200m along a raised
embankment up to 5m wide and 1.5m above the land to the west and into the
reservoir which measures 50m by 20m with raised sides 1.5m high. The mill was
the main mill for the abbey and after the Dissolution continued in use with
alterations until the 1930s. It was demolished in the 1960s and stone footings
from the original medieval structure are still visible. The land between the
two water courses contains the shallow earthwork remains of a mill on the east
bank of the Foss measuring 11m by 20m, which is thought to be one of the early
mills granted to the abbey at its foundation. Other shallow earthworks lie
throughout this field and further archaeological remains associated with
milling and other economic activities will be preserved below the ground.

South of the abbey mill, and west of the priory is the complex of fishponds.
These were fed by water from the mill complex, from higher land to the north
east and directly from the Foss to the west. The fishponds have two distinct
phases. The first dating to the 13th century comprised a large crescent-shaped
pond with curving sides following the contour of the valley, finishing with
the south end blocked by a large dam up to 3m high crossing the valley floor.
A further water course following the western edge of the pond carried
overflow, and also water from the Foss, further south into the water meadows.
The interior of the main pond was later drained and occupied by five smaller
ponds and a breeding tank. A further large pond lies to the east of the spur,
which was fed from the north and dammed by an earthen causeway which may also
have been an entrance to the priory.

To the south of the spur is a regular ditched enclosure containing a building
platform with stone rubble foundations and a small sunken courtyard, the whole
measuring 40m across. The function of this structure is unclear. To the south
are three large enclosures bounded by low banks which form water meadows;
areas of pasture which were flooded in early spring to promote early grass for
stock and to protect from frost. The water meadows are overlain with the
remains of ridge and furrow agriculture.

The Priory of St Mary was founded in the mid 12th century as a double
monastery of Augustinian canons and nuns, but by 1167 the latter had been
moved to Moxby. There is little recorded of the history of the site although
it is known that the monastery was devastated following Scottish raids in
c.1322. However documents of 1536 mention houses, dovecotes, orchards,
gardens, meadows, a watermill and five fishponds which gives an indication of
the features found adjacent to the abbey buildings. The priory was suppressed
at the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 and the site granted to the
Archbishop of York.

Marton Abbey Farmhouse and farm buildings, Half Moon Cottage, all yard, track
and road surfaces, fences, gates, modern walls and signs are excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath is included.

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

A post-Conquest double house is a settlement built after the Norman Conquest
to house a community of religious men and women. Its main buildings were
constructed to provide facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence.
The main elements included one or two churches and domestic buildings,
normally arranged around two self-contained cloisters. One or two outer
courts and gatehouses would accompany the central cloister compound, the whole
complex being bounded by a precinct wall, earthworks or a moat. Outside the
main enclosure fishponds, barns and mills may be found.
The tradition of establishing double houses originated in the early
Anglo-Saxon period. However, early double houses were often re-founded as the
more popular single sex communities. During the 12th century a new order was
founded which revived the concept of the double house. This order was founded
by Gilbert of Sempringham. Within these new foundations the nuns were
supposed to lead an enclosed contemplative life. The houses were under the
supervision of the male founders of the order or their deputies. The male
canons in each house were required to celebrate the mass for the nuns. The
Gilbertines founded 12 double houses; in addition, a small number of such
houses were established by other orders, such as the Fontevraults and the
Bridgettines. In total only 25 sites are known to have existed. As a rare
type of monastery all examples exhibiting significant survival of
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Marton Priory with nearby Moxby is the only known example of an Augustinian
double house. The Augustinians were not monks in the strict sense but rather
communities of canons - or priests - living under the rule of St Augustine.
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.

Whilst there are sparse standing remains of the main claustral buildings the
complex of water management features survives well. It is an important example
of an integrated system incorporating mills, fishponds and water meadows and
will retain important information about its function within the wider economy
of the site. With a sequence of a large pond, then several smaller tanks, the
fishponds also provide important information about the development of fish
farming methods throughout the country in the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989), 71-77
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989), 71-77
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989), 71-77
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989), 71-77
Swan V, , 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Marton Priory Fishponmds: A Postscript, , Vol. VOL 63, (1991), 219-220

Source: Historic England

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