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Latton Priory

A Scheduled Monument in North Weald Bassett, Essex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.7381 / 51°44'17"N

Longitude: 0.1218 / 0°7'18"E

OS Eastings: 546604.046102

OS Northings: 206503.471982

OS Grid: TL466065

Mapcode National: GBR LDX.TX9

Mapcode Global: VHHMF.2K7Y

Entry Name: Latton Priory

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Last Amended: 8 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017386

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29394

County: Essex

Civil Parish: North Weald Bassett

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Harlow St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

Details

The monument includes the site of the Augustinian priory of St John the
Baptist, now Latton Priory Farm, and is located to the south of Harlow,
approximately 1km to the south west of junction 7 on the M11. It includes the
crossing of the church, which is the only monastic structure to survive as a
standing building above ground, the buried remains of the church and
conventual buildings, the moated island which served as the inner precinct and
on which the claustral range originally stood, a series of enclosures
representing outer wards to the south and east of the moat, and a fishpond
located to the south.
The moated island lies mainly to the south of the farm buildings and is
trapezoidal in plan, measuring between 70m and 100m from east to west and
between 70m and 80m north to south. The northern and eastern arms of the
surrounding ditch have been infilled; the former is now covered by yard
surfaces and modern outbuildings, and the latter is only visible as a slight
depression in the adjacent pasture. To the south and west the ditch is water
filled, measuring on average 10m in width and 2m deep.
The priory church, which was completely rebuilt in the 14th century using
flint rubble dressed with reused Roman brick and Reigate stone, stood towards
the northern corner of the island. The crossing, a Grade II* Listed Building,
survives nearly to its full height, with archways on each side which lead into
the transepts, nave and chancel. The north transept is represented by standing
walls to the east and west. These are pierced by archways, now blocked, which
provided access to the north aisle and to a chapel on the north side of the
chancel. A piscina, with moulded and shafted jambs and a trefoiled head is
mounted in the wall to the north of the chapel entrance. A section of east
wall, with a diagonal buttress at the southern end, survives to mark the
position of the south transept, which reportedly collapsed in 1806, and traces
of a circular staircase can be seen in the external angle between its western
wall and the nave. Short sections of the nave walls extend eastwards from the
crossing for about 3.5m, retaining a blocked sexfoil circular window above the
level of the north aisle roof, and a blocked processional doorway with moulded
jambs in the south wall. The chancel, illustrated in 1778 prior to its
collapse, is thought to have been of two bays. In its place stands a barn with
a hipped roof dating from the late 17th century. A similar barn, of 19th
century construction, extends across the site of the south transept, and
the north transept walls are sloped off, roofed, and sealed with
weatherboarding. These later structures, together with the roof above the
crossing and a modern extension in the north eastern angle, are excluded from
the scheduling although the ground beneath them, and the medieval fabric to
which they are attached, is included.
The church is thought to have formed the northern arm of the claustral range
which would have included a dormitory extending from the south transept, a
cellarer's range to the east and a refectory to the south, completing a square
surrounding the cloister garth. The present farmhouse, which is Listed Grade
II, replaced an earlier house demolished in the late 18th century and is
thought to stand on the site of the refectory. Material similar to that used
in the construction of the church was found beneath the south wall during the
demolition of the earlier building. The remainder of the island, to the south
of the farmhouse, is fairly level and lacks surface evidence for the presence
of ancillary buildings, although linear parchmarks representing the buried
foundations of further structures were recorded by aerial photography in 1995.
The south eastern corner of the island contains a small fishpond, measuring
approximately 30m by 10m and orientated with the southern arm of the moat. A
larger fishpond, similarly aligned, lies outside the moat approximately 120m
to the south. This feature is depicted on a map of the property dating from
1616, which also shows the small island located towards the eastern end.
The area to the south of the moat is crossed by several shallow ditches which
were last recorded from the air in 1995 prior to being infilled in the
following year. These leats, some of which link with other partly infilled
ditches to the east of the moat, form the boundaries of two outer enclosures,
or wards. The smaller ward forms a sub-rectangular enclosure extending
approximately 90m beyond the southern arm of the moat, with the larger
fishpond at its south western corner. In the early 17th century this enclosure
lay within a larger area termed `Grave feild'(sic) and, as human bones were
reportedly unearthed here in the 18th century, it may have surrounded a lay
cemetery administered by the priory. The canons' cemetery would, according to
the doctrines of the order, have been placed near the chancel of the priory
church. The second ward represents a separate phase of development during
which a larger area to the south and east of the moat was enclosed. The
boundary ditch extends south across the interior of the smaller ward for some
70m, following the same alignment as the western arm of the moat. It then
turns to the north east, crossing the eastern arm of the smaller enclosure
before turning to the north and running parallel to, and approximately 30m
from, the eastern arm. The 1616 map shows a small paddock or orchard to the
south of the moat defined by a combination of boundary ditches from both
wards, which must therefore pre-date its existence.
A slight terrace, perhaps formed by upcast from the construction or periodic
cleaning of the moat, lies between the eastern boundary of the larger ward and
the eastern arm of the moat. This area, termed `the monks' bowling green' in
the late 18th century, may originally have served as a vegetable or herb
garden. The adjacent ditch continues to join a broad hollow way which extends
across the northern edge of the pasture from east to west. This route is
thought to represent the original approach to the priory leading towards the
entrance to the moat which is shown as a causeway across the centre of the
northern arm on the 1616 map. A short section of the hollow way approximately
30m in length is included in the scheduling as a sample of the route and in
order to protect its archaeological relationship with the enclosure ditch.
The priory was founded in the 12th century by an ancestor of Thomas Shaa, who
was recorded as the benefactor in 1534. The original community consisted of a
prior and two canons and, although the priory later acquired over 440 acres of
land together with the advowson of the parish church, the priors were often
appointed by the Bishop of London as the canons numbered too few for proper
elections. John Taylor, the last prior and the only remaining canon at the
time of the Dissolution, abandoned the priory following an inquistion in 1534.
In 1536 the property was confiscated by the Crown and granted to Sir Henry
Parker.
In addition to the roofs and later structures attached to the crossing of the
church, the following items are excluded from the scheduling; all standing
buildings and walls (apart from the church walls), the surfaces of all paths
and yards, all fences, fenceposts and gates, and all other modern features and
fittings, the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

Latton Priory is a good example of an Augustinian foundation, with historical
records from its inception continuing to the 16th century, and further details
from the Dissoulution and after. Although parts of the precinct have been
obscured by later developments, the full extent of the moated island is known
and foundations and other features, including those of the church and
claustral buildings, will survive buried beneath the present buildings and
surfaces. The standing part of the church is well preserved, providing a
graphic illustration of the appearance of the monastery in the 14th century.
The outer wards are particularly significant, as these are thought to have
contained ancillary buildings, paddocks, gardens and cemeteries reflecting the
economy of the community and their dealings with the secular world, and
therefore separated from the religious life within the inner precinct. Other
aspects of communal life are represented by the fishponds which, in addition
to providing a sustainable food supply, would have enabled the canons to
comply with religious strictures concerning their diet.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Essex, (1920), 154
Grosse, , The Antiquities of Essex, (1787)
Other
4/26 (Grade II*), DoE, List of Buildings of Special Historic or Architectural Interest, Epping (North Weald Bassett), (1970)
conversation with landowner, Brown, I, Latton Priory, (1996)
PRN.23 Latton Priory, (1985)
Text and plan of church crossing, RCHME, Inventory of Historic Monuments, Essex, (1921)
Title: Antiquity Model (resurvey)
Source Date: 1971
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
TL 40 NE 8
Title: Survey of Latton
Source Date: 1616
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Essex Record Office No. D/D Ar. P1.
Title: Survey of Latton
Source Date: 1616
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Essex Record Office No. D/D Ar. P1.
Two oblique colour photographs, Strachan, D, Latton Priory, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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