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Bolton Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.9823 / 53°58'56"N

Longitude: -1.89 / 1°53'23"W

OS Eastings: 407312.482278

OS Northings: 454031.611488

OS Grid: SE073540

Mapcode National: GBR HQ7D.M6

Mapcode Global: WHB79.Y55F

Entry Name: Bolton Priory

Scheduled Date: 20 May 1965

Last Amended: 3 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015684

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28252

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Bolton Abbey

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


Bolton Priory is situated on low ground in a bend of the River Wharfe. The
monument is divided into two separate areas; one which includes the standing
ruins of the priory, which are Listed Grade I, the precinct wall (part of
which is Listed Grade II) and associated features, the medieval tithe barn and
part of the medieval barnyard and the other area which includes the remains of
a medieval reservoir on the hillside to the west of the priory. The standing
remains of the priory demonstrate the usual layout of a monastic house, with
an east to west orientated church forming the north range of a four sided
complex known as the cloister, the remaining sides containing accommodation
for lay and monastic brethren, and domestic and administrative functions. The
east end of the church and the two transepts still stand to roof height. The
nave, or main body of the church, stands to full height and is still roofed.
The east end of the nave was blocked off at the Dissolution and is now used as
the parish church, which is Listed Grade I. As it is in ecclesiastical use, it
is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.
The cloister ranges have been demolished but the plan of the buildings can
still be identified from the footings of the walls which still survive. The
east cloister range included, on its ground floor, a passage leading to a
polygonal chapter house and a sub-vault extending beneath the monks' dormitory
and abbot's lodgings which occupied the first floor. The south range of
cloister included the monks' refectory with a kitchen attached to the south
western side and the west range was occupied by the cellarium or stores with
the lay brothers accommodation on the floor above.

The priory infirmary was located to the south of the abbot's lodgings. The
infirmary building was partly rebuilt in 1700 as a charitable school known as
the Boyle School. It later became the Rectory and is now a dwelling. The
building is Listed Grade II* and is excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath is included.
The priory guest house was located to the south west of the cloister but only
a fireplace and chimney stack remain as standing ruins. They are Listed Grade

In addition to the core monastic buildings the monastic precinct contained a
range of structures essential for the economic and social functions of the
house. The precinct was defined by the river to the east and to the west by a
wall. The course of the precinct wall extends south from a bend in the river
and follows the east side of the road to the green then extends eastward form
the rear of the post office to the river. Adjacent to the road, the medieval
precinct wall is preserved to full height for a length of 50m and elsewhere
sections have been rebuilt or are incorporated into later structures along the
roadside. The outer gatehouse is incorporated into Bolton Hall. This building,
which is occupied, is Listed Grade II* and is excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath is included. Further buildings, including Abbey
Mill, which is Listed Grade II, lie on the east side of the course of the
precinct wall and are in residential use, and are excluded from the scheduling
although the ground beneath them is included.

Within the southern part of the precinct are the earthwork remains of two
large tanks with associated leats and channels. These are the remains of
tanning tanks which are known from documentary sources to have existed at the
priory. A corn mill is known to have stood within the precinct and elsewhere
within the precinct there are earthworks representing the remains of further
monastic buildings and structures.

Immediately to the south west of the precinct lies the site of the monastic
barnyard. Only the southern part of the barnyard complex is included in the
scheduling as the remainder has been disturbed by the development of the
village of Bolton Abbey in the post-medieval period. The southern edge of the
barnyard is defined by an earthen bank extending west across the field from
the end of the woodyard to the road. Another bank also crosses the field
further to the north. The barnyard was the focus for the agricultural
activities of the priory and contained a wide range of buildings including two
large barns one of which survives complete. The surviving barn is stone built
with an impressive timber superstructure to support the roof. Known as the
Great Barn it is Listed Grade II*. It is thought to be 16th century in date
with later 19th and 20th century openings. Further remains of the buildings
and structures of the barnyard will be preserved below ground in the fields to
the west and north west of the barn.

A complex of ponds, leats and tanks on the hillside to the west of the
monastic precinct fed into a stream running through the southern part of the
precinct. Of these features a dam and side walls for a reservoir survive as
earthworks and are included in the scheduling. The dam is an earth and stone
bank 2.2m high and 20m long which crosses part of a small natural valley. It
has a stone facing on the down stream side and has been breached in the past
so the stream now flows uninterrupted. The sides of the reservoir are formed
by a stone faced bank to the west and a steep slope cut into the natural slope
to the east. Water from here was fed to the priory along a stream bed which
was partly stone revetted and canalised. However much of the stonework has
been removed and the line of the stream has been modified in post-medieval
times, and it is therefore not included in the scheduling.

Bolton Priory was founded in 1155 by a community of Augustinian canons. In the
early 14th century the priory fell on hard times but recovered and in the
later years of the century a programme of rebuilding of the church and some
domestic buildings took place. It was suppressed in 1539 during the
Dissolution of the Monasteries. Following the Dissolution, the bulk of the
priory estate was bought by the Clifford family, formerly patrons of the
church since 1310. The priory was not immediately demolished. The nave of the
church continued in use, the corn mill within the precinct operated until the
end of the 18th century and some of the cloister buildings were used as
dwellings. The gatehouse was eventually incorporated into the 18th century
Bolton Hall.

The Church of St Mary, the Old Rectory and Boyle Room, Abbey Mill, the
building to the south adjacent to the main entrance to the Abbey, all modern
structures within the woodyard and all modern fences, tree guards, walls,
gates, signs, the fuel tank and heating apparatus for the church and
the footbridge crossing the river are excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath all these features is included.

The modern cemetery, which remains in use, the grassed area north of the old
cemetery and the fenced area outside the east end of the church used for
inhuming cremations are not included in the scheduling.

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 ruins of Bolton Priory survive well and important evidence of the original
architectural detail is preserved. The precinct has remained largely
undisturbed and important remains of the wider monument are preserved there as
earthworks and buried archaeological remains. The barn and remains of the
barnyard demonstrate an unusual level of survival and offer important scope
for the study of monastic agricultural practices. The Great Barn with its
timber frame, is one of the best preserved medieval timber barns in northern
England. Taken together the monument is important for understanding the wider
workings of a monastic house as both a spiritual centre and an important
element of the medieval landscape.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Moorhouse, S, Bolton Priory's Monastic Estate, (1992)
Moorhouse, S, Bolton Priory's Monastic Estate, (1992)
Watkins, P, Bolton Priory and its Church, (1989)
Watkins, P, Bolton Priory and its Church, (1989)
Listed building entry,
Moorhouse, S, Bolton Priory, (1996)

Source: Historic England

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