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Wykeham Cistercian priory, All Saints parish church and churchyard cross

A Scheduled Monument in Wykeham, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.2227 / 54°13'21"N

Longitude: -0.5252 / 0°31'30"W

OS Eastings: 496251.721676

OS Northings: 481783.389589

OS Grid: SE962817

Mapcode National: GBR SMSM.20

Mapcode Global: WHGCB.X423

Entry Name: Wykeham Cistercian priory, All Saints parish church and churchyard cross

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 10 January 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017225

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32076

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Wykeham

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Wykeham Cistercian
priory, the buried remains of All Saints parish church, a churchyard cross and
associated earthworks, situated immediately to the east and south of the 18th
century country house known as Wykeham Abbey. Although known as the Priory,
the site was home to a community of nuns.
The north wall of the priory church is the only upstanding fabric of Wykeham
priory which survives. It is about 40m long and 2m wide. The original fabric
of the wall is roughly coursed sandstone rubble with a chamfered string course
3m above present ground level on the south side. Sections of the wall have
been repaired and all the original windows, transepts and doorways blocked
with a mixture of fabrics, including material from the priory itself. The
wall still has three single light windows directly above the chamfered string
course. The wall also has a 14th century three-light window, a door with a
semi-circular arch infilled with some fragments of decorative stonework, and
two blocked arches which led to the north transept.
The Dissolution survey of 1540 describes the priory church as 90 feet (28m)
long by 22 feet (6.5m) wide. To the south of this was a cloister 60 feet (18m)
square with 8 feet (2.5m) wide alleys on three sides, two covered with lead.
The cloister would have been bordered by ranges on three sides. The east range
housed the parlour, a warming-room, a 20 feet (6m) long chapter house at
ground level and the nuns' dormitory in the upper level. The south end of the
range communicated with a latrine block. The south range was a double-storeyed
building with cellarage at ground level and a refectory in the upper storey.
Adjacent to the refectory was the kitchen, which was positioned so that it
could serve both the refectory and the west range. The west range served a
combination of functions including guest house, prioress's lodging, rooms for
officers of the house such as the cellarer (organiser of provisions), and
store rooms. To the west of these buildings, which were known as the inner
court (where only the nuns were allowed), was the outer court which contained
the resident priest's lodgings, guest house, dairy, bakehouse, brewhouse,
granary, and which provided contact with the outside world. At the entrance to
the outer court was the gatehouse and in Cistercian houses noisy or offensive
activities such as the smithy or tannery would be carried out to the west of
the gatehouse. Apart from the north wall of the priory church none of these
buildings survive as upstanding buildings, but significant information on
their form, structure and use will be preserved beneath the present ground
surface. The inner and outer court were contained within a precinct which was
defined by a physical barrier such as a wall or moat. The east and south
precinct boundaries can be recognised by a drop in ground level. This is about
10m east of the surviving wall of the priory church from which it turns south
east and then east, crossing a fence 60m east of the end of the southern,
stone wall, garden boundary. It extends south a further 45m before turning
south west. At a distance of 25m from the west end of the southern garden
boundary the precinct boundary lies 35m further east and is 35m south of the
wall. Beyond this the boundary becomes indistinct. The west and north precinct
boundaries have not been identified and, as their extent and preservation are
not sufficiently understood, are not included in the scheduling.
To the south of the precinct boundary is an enclosure about 160m by 170m,
defined by a 0.5m high bank. A causewayed track 0.5m high and 8 to 10m wide
leads south from the southern side of the enclosure to a small stream. This
enclosure is interpreted as either part of the medieval priory or part of the
grounds of the post-Dissolution house on the site.
The parish church was demolished in 1853, although the original position of
its walls are marked by a 20th century garden wall. The site of the altar is
marked by a 19th century cross. The church had included a nave and choir
without structural division, a north aisle, a chapel, west tower and south
porch. The nave was of 12th century date. Significant information on its
layout, structure and relationship to the priory will be preserved beneath the
present ground surface.
The churchyard cross is situated south of the parish church. It is a weathered
limestone monolith cross, which is 1.8m tall and 0.3m wide at its base. The
north arm of the cross is absent. The surviving arms are 0.25m wide, 0.15m
long and have circle arm intersections. It is interpreted as being in its
original setting and is shown in this position on the first edition six inch
Ordnance Survey map of 1854.
The priory was founded in about 1153 with a grant from Pain de Wykeham. His
son, Theobald, granted 48 acres of land. King Henry III granted the priory a
further 103 acres in Wykeham and a mill. There were probably about 20 nuns
with a master and lay brothers in the 13th century. In 1540, the priory was
dissolved and in 1544 the priory and a grange was granted to Francis Poole. At
the Dissolution there were 13 nuns including the Prioress. Before 1559 Francis
Poole had passed the priory onto Richard Hutchinson, whose descendents still
own it. A later Richard Hutchinson (1706-1752) changed his name to Langley
after the inheritance of North Grimston from his uncle Thomas Langley. In
1817, Richard Langley died childless and the estate passed to a cousin, the
Honourable Marmaduke Dawnay, who changed his name to Langley by royal licence
in 1824. He died in 1851 and the owners of the estate have subsequently been
known by the title Viscount Downe.
The upstanding remains of the priory, churchyard cross and 19th century cross
are Listed Grade II.
The stone wall forming the southern boundary of the garden, garden ornaments
metal fence, post and wire fence, and surfaces of metalled paths are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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 11th 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 protection.

A parish church is a building usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end,
but central towers at the crossing of the nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels and economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.
A standing cross is a free standing upright structure, usually of stone,
mostly erected during the medieval period (mid-10th to mid-16th centuries AD).
Standing crosses served a variety of functions. In churchyards they served as
stations for outdoor processions, particularly in the observance of Palm
Sunday. Elsewhere, standing crosses were used within settlements as places for
preaching, public proclamation and penance, as well as defining rights of
sanctuary. Standing crosses were also employed to mark boundaries between
parishes, property, or settlements. A few crosses were erected to commemorate
battles. Some crosses were linked to particular saints, whose support and
protection their presence would have helped to invoke. Crosses in market
places may have helped to validate transactions. After the Reformation, some
crosses continued in use as foci for municipal or borough ceremonies, for
example as places for official proclamations and announcements; some were the
scenes of games or recreational activity.
Standing crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have
numbered in excess of 12,000. However, their survival since the Reformation
has been variable, being much affected by local conditions, attitudes and
religious sentiment. In particular, many cross-heads were destroyed by
iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. Less than 2,000 medieval
standing crosses, with or without cross-heads, are now thought to exist. The
oldest and most basic form of standing cross is the monolith, a stone shaft
often set directly in the ground without a base. The most common form is the
stepped cross, in which the shaft is set in a socket stone and raised upon a
flight of steps; this type of cross remained current from the 11th to 12th
centuries until after the Reformation. Where the cross-head survives it may
take a variety of forms, from a lantern-like structure to a crucifix; the more
elaborate examples date from the 15th century. Much less common than stepped
crosses are spired-shaped crosses, often composed of three or four receding
stages with elaborate architectural decoration and/or sculptured figures; the
most famous of these include the Eleanor Crosses, erected by Edward I at the
stopping places of the funeral cortege of his wife, who died in 1290. Also
uncommon are the preaching crosses which were built in public places from the
13th century, typically in the cemeteries of religious communities and
cathedrals, market places and wide thoroughfares; they include a stepped base,
buttresses supporting a vaulted canopy, in turn carrying either a shaft and
head or a pinnacled spire. Standing crosses contribute significantly to our
understanding of medieval customs, both secular and religious, and to our
knowledge of medieval parishes and settlement patterns. All crosses which
survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in or near their
original location, are considered worthy of protection.
The upstanding remains of Wykeham Priory retain important information on the
form and building phases of the priory church, and the upstanding churchyard
cross is a relatively rare survival. The below ground remains and deposits of
the priory buildings, parish church, parish and monastic graveyards will
provide evidence on the relationship between these various elements.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Yorkshire: North Riding, (1968), 498
Everson, P, 'The Archaeolgy of Rural Monasteries' in Rural monasteries within the secular landscape, , Vol. BAR 203, (1989)
Mackay, D, Swan, V, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Earthworks At Marton And Moxby Priories, , Vol. VOL 61, (1989)
Photo Ref. No. CUC AUH 56 and 59, North Yorkshire County Council, Wykeham, (1968)

Source: Historic England

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